Volume XVII, Issue 34 # August 20 - August 26, 2009

Fish Are Biting

But the mid-day August heat is making Mr. Rockfish finicky. Very early and late in the day brings on the best bite. Plugging the shallows is poor more often than not, but even a slight chance at some good rockfish on top is enough to keep me trying.

Lots of blues dashing about, but many are small. Bigger croaker are staying scarce and deep (40 to 50 feet) in the heat wave. Large spot, small perch and short but still legal croaker (over nine inches) are available in very pleasing numbers at the 20-to-30-foot level on shell bottom. Currently many crabs are light from the big slough during the last full moon; best to wait a week or so to let them fatten up. It’ll all get better soon.

When You Can’t Catch the Fish You Love …

You can still catch perch

The sun, just peeking over the Eastern Shore horizon, promised to be enormous. It already glowed a fiery red and warned of yet another hot day. I hurried to get underway while the Bay’s skinny water still retained some of the night’s cooler temperatures.

Arriving at my destination after a fast run over flat water, I eased my skiff up to within a long cast of a rocky, deserted shoreline and slipped a light, shallow-water anchor over the side.

I had one rod rigged with a surface plug and ready to go, but I decided to let the water rest from the disturbance of my approach as I set up the rest of my tackle.

I had three seven-foot, medium-action, casting rods. My small, low-profile reels were spooled with 150 yards of 15-pound Power Pro braid spliced to fluorocarbon 20-pound, four-foot leaders. These comfortable, lightweight outfits are superb plugging rods for the Bay’s late summer-into-fall shallow-water rockfish bite that I love so much.

Rigging the second rod with another top-water bait in a darker color, I set up the last with silvery, shad-colored subsurface swim bait. Now I was ready to begin a thorough search of these waters. I had scored well here in past years, but it was still early in the season for this brand of fishing to be consistent.

Chugging my three-quarter-ounce plug through a slight rip caused by the tidal current crossing over some bottom structure, I drew a strike on just the third cast. Hooked, the fish shot across in front of me. Then, as I leaned into the rod, the striper stopped and spun in a tight circle, shaking its head and throwing water.

After that display, the 17-inch rockfish came quickly to the boat for release. I hoped that this was merely the first of a nice pod of fish. But I found it to be more like the jinx of winning an opening hand of poker, for my luck went cold.

Three hours later, after having worked lots of shoreline with no further action, I stopped to assess my chances. They didn’t look good. The day was warming quickly from a scorching sun, now risen into a cloudless sky. Encountering a pack of cruising stripers in thin water under these conditions would be unlikely.

Love the Fish You Catch

But on the deck beside me was a short, ultra-light spin rod rigged with a small chartreuse Rooster Tail spinner bait. I had included the outfit on a whim, thinking that, if I had the time, I might discover just how well populated these shallows were with the smaller perch that stripers seek out here this time of year.

I returned to a section of the shoreline waters still partially shaded by tall trees. During higher tide phases, white perch will remain after sunup in these areas because it is cooler, and in the darker water they are safe from the circling ospreys. My first cast resulted in a surprise.

It was a white perch all right, but not the bitty size I assumed were in residence. This one felt heavy, putting up a dogged and determined fight. Finally lifting it into the boat, I discovered the thick, black-backed perch measured almost 11 inches. Admiring the rascal’s size but believing it a loner, I released it and continued to cast to the area.

But large perch continued to pound my lure. After releasing the next two or three fish, I reconsidered and put some of the larger ones into my cooler. By the time the sun had climbed high enough to erase the shadows holding these critters, I had accumulated a small fish fry and an aching wrist.

Motoring back to the ramp, an old tune by Stephen Stills, slightly modified, played in the background of my mind as theme to my rescued morning: “If you can’t catch the ones you love, love the ones you get.”

© COPYRIGHT 2009 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.